COUNCILS are to employ a new specialist who is set to be paid almost £50,000 a year to reduce suicide rate across the county.

Southampton City Council (SCC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC) have teamed up to employ a suicide prevention programme manager for 12 months in a bid to reduce the rate of suicides by 10% by 2020/21.

The news comes after data released earlier this week showed an increase in the number of suicides in Hampshire.

The programme manager will work across Southampton, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and the rest of Hampshire.

The new position will be funded by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) - which coordinates health and care across Hampshire, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight- as it has received just under £500,000 from NHS England for local suicide prevention.

The new specialist will work with SCC and HCC as well as NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, district, city and borough councils, the police, prisons, the voluntary and community sector and those with lived experience of suicide.

The scheme will aim to improve the support available in primary care, improve care for people who self-harm, provide training and support in workplaces and in relation to debt (for those in and out of work) and ensure that people affected by suicide are able to gain the support they need.

Cllr Judith Grajewski, executive member for public health at HCC, said: “Suicides have a devastating impact on individuals and their families, and prevention is therefore a priority for us. While the overall numbers are low, compared to the national average, any increase, no matter how small, is a matter for concern. We are determined therefore to work with our partners to ensure the right support is available, both to prevent incidences, as well as help all those affected by suicide.”

As reported, the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 101 people in Hampshire took their own life last year, compared to 88 people in 2016 and 98 people in 2017.

In Southampton the number of suicides has risen from 24 in 2017 to 27 in 2018 while figures have doubled in Winchester where 16 suicides were recorded in 2018 and eight in 2017.

SCC will host the new suicide prevention programme manager and according to the vacancy advertised by SCC she or he could be paid between £43,662 and £49,398.

Cllr David Shields, cabinet member for healthier and safer city at SCC, said: “We’re pleased to be working with Hampshire County Council and community partners to address suicide prevention in our region, taking this positive action to improve mental health among our residents. I am hopeful that this new role will help us to reach the most vulnerable groups--especially middle-aged men--to help reduce incidence of suicide in Hampshire and Southampton.”

If you feel like you may be close to acting on suicidal thoughts or have seriously harmed yourself – or know someone who is - call 999 or go to A&E directly. You can also call Samaritans any time day or night from any phone for free: 116 123.